The women spread supper—a large bowl of cheese melted in butter, into which we dipped our maize bread, and very good it was. ~ Edith Durham, High Albania
Have you ever tasted Pispili, the Albanian cornbread seasoned with leek and crumbly feta cheese?
This is a perfect dish for parties and other group gatherings. It’s only 45 minutes from prep until it comes out of the oven, steaming hot, ready to be sliced, and pounced upon.
Of course, you could bake a small pan all for yourself, too. Then have a generous slice with, say, hot soup one day and a dish of stew the next until it’s all gone.
Good plans both.
One thing for sure: if you’ve never been to Albania or tasted Albanian food, a chunk of Pispili will be a tasty (and filling!) introduction.
You’ll find, in this one dish, some of the very best foods that each region of this ancient European country has to offer. These include:
- Corn, the staple food from the mountainous North.
- Eggs, from the Central Albania, where both poultry and fish from the Adriatic Sea is plentiful.
- Feta cheese, from Southern Albania where dairy farms rule along with olive and citrus groves.
And, finally, leeks that grow in various varieties all over Albania.
THIS RECIPE COMES FROM THE KITCHEN OF DONIKA, THE WRITER & CHEF IN CHARGE AT HER BLOG, WHEN FETA MET OLIVE.
Donika is Canadian-born, but her ancestry is Albanian and her ties to those Albanian roots are strong. Many of her recipes are old family favorites; this recipe for Albanian cornbread with feta & leek is one of these.
Pispili ~ Feta & Leek Cornbread
- 9" x 13" baking pan/dish (or pan of similar size)
- wooden spoon or spatula
- ½ cup yogurt
- ¾ cup olive oil
- 3 eggs
- 1½ cups flour
- ½ cup fine corn flour
- 1-2 sticks leek depending on the size
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- ½ teaspoon black pepper
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 cup crumbled feta cheese
- Preheat oven to 400F, grease a 9" x 13" pan or a pan size close to that.
- Prepare leeks, cut them into bite-sized pieces, and rinse.
- Mix eggs, yogurt, and oil in a bowl; add the cornflour into the egg mixture and whisk together; let sit for 3 minutes.
- Sift together the flour, pepper, salt and bang powder with a whisk; add flour to the egg mixture and mix together with a wooden spoon or spatula.
- Add the leeks and feta cheese; combine with the wooden spoon or your hands.
- Or you can add the leeks and feta cheese to the egg mixture first, then add in the flour mixture.
- Pour over in pan and press evenly across pan.
- Bake for 25-30 minutes. Cut into squares. Enjoy warm.
TIPS & TRICKS LEARNED MY FIRST TIME MAKING PISPILI
- The recipe doesn’t specify a type of yogurt to use. So I chose a non-fat plain Greek yogurt and happily discovered that its thick consistency produces sublimely creamy results.
- You can save a few dollars by crumbling a pack of feta cheese yourself rather than buying it pre-crumbled. It’s easy: I placed the pack in a bowl and jabbed it a few times with my handheld chopper. And just like the “extreme ways” Moby sings about at the end of the Bourne movies, it fell apart.
- When the time comes to “pour” the batter into the pan, don’t worry if it’s so dense that you have to help it get there with a spoon. (At first, I thought — oh, no, I’ve made it too thick!) Just continue following the directions and press the batter evenly across the pan with your wooden spoon. And, like me, you’ll have a finished dish that both looks and tastes terrific and is deliciously moist.
WHAT MAKES THIS RECIPE SPECIAL?
The magic in this cornbread lies in the balance between the tangy Feta cheese and the delicately mild leeks. It’s a yin-yang thing, Albanian-style.
So even if you’ve thought of Feta cheese as a “strong tasting” cheese, as I did (and do), you may still end up liking this dish. And once you catch yourself and some of your peeps reaching for seconds, well, you may have to rethink your ideas about Feta entirely.
But enough talk about cooking. Let’s cook Albanian already!
- For another perfect-for-baking in a glass dish recipe, check out this sweet and spicy dessert from New Mexico.
- Expand your at-home dining menu by adopting more delicious recipes from When Feta Met Olive. Donika’s collection includes beaucoup dishes from Turkey and throughout the Mediterranean as well as Albania.